Festivals in Ethiopia

Festivals in Ethiopia

Ethiopia still retains the Julian calendar, in which the year is divided into 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of 5 days and 6 days in leap year. The Ethiopian calendar is 8 years behind the Gregorian calendar from January to September and 7 years behind between September 11 and January 8.
Enkutatash means the “gift of jewels”. When the famous Queen of Sheba returned from her expensive jaunt to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem, her chiefs welcomed her bolts by replenishing her treasury with inku or jewels. The spring festival has been celebrated since this early times and as the rains come to their abrupt end, dancing and singing can be heard at every village in the green countryside.
But Enkutatash is not exclusively a religious holiday. Today’s Enkutatash is also the season for exchanging formal new year greetings and cards among the urban sophisticated – in lieu or the traditional bouquet of flowers.

Epiphany (Timket)

Timket, feast of Epiphany is the greatest festival of the year falling on the 19 January just two weeks after the Ethiopian Christmas. It is actually a three-day affair beginning on the eve of Timket with dramatic and colourful processions. The following morning the great day itself, Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist is commemorated. Since October and the end of the rains, the country has been drying up steadily. The sun blazes down from a clear blue sky and the festival of Timket always takes place in glorious weather.

Ethiopian Christmas (Genna)

Christmas, called Lidet, is not the primary religious and secular festival that it has become in Western countries. Falling on 7 January, it is celebrated seriously by a church service that goes on throughout the night, with people moving from one church to another. Traditionally, young men played a game similar to hockey, called genna, on this day, and now Christmas has also come to be known by that name.

Finding of the True Cross (Meskal)

Meskal has been celebrated in the country for over 1600 years. The word actually means “cross” and the feast commemorates the discovery of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified, by the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. The original event took place on 19 March 326 AD. but the feast is now celebrated on 27 September.
Many of the rites observed throughout the festival are said to be directly connected to the legend of Empress Helena. On the eve of Meskal, tall branches are tied together and yellow daisies, popularly called Meskal Flowers, are placed at the top. During the night those branches are gathered together in front of the compound gates and ignited – This symbolizes the actions of the Empress who, when no one would show the Holy Sepulcher, lit incense and prayed for help. Where the smoke drifted, she dug and found three roses. To one of the three, on the True Cross of Jesus, many miracles were attributed.
Meskal also signifies the physical presence of part of the True Cross at the church of Egziabher Ab, the remote mountain monastery of Gishen Mariam located 483 kms north of Addis Ababa in Wello administrative zone. In this monastery, there is a massive volume called the Tefut written during the reign of Zera Yacob (1434 – 1468), which records the story of how a fragment of the cross was acquired.
During this time of the year flowers gloom on mountain and plain and the meadows are yellow with the brilliant Meskal daisy. Dancing, feasting, merrymaking, bonfires and even gun salutes mark the occasion. The festival begins by planting a green tree on Meskal eve in town squares and village market places. Everyone brings a pole topped with Meskal daisies to form the towering pyramid that will be a beacon of flame. Torches of tree branches tied up together called “Chibo” are used to light the bundle called “Demera”.

National Parks

National Parks

Simien Mountains National Park is one of the national parks of Ethiopia…..

National Parks

National Parks

Semien Mountain National Park

Simien Mountains National Park is one of the national parks of Ethiopia which ocated in the Semien (North) Gondar Zone of the Amhara Region. Its territory covers the Simien Mountains and includes Ras Dashan, the highest point in Ethiopia.
It is home to a number of endangered species, including the Ethiopian wolf and the walia ibex, a wild goat found nowhere else in the world. The gelada baboon and the caracal, a cat, also occur within the Simien Mountains. More than 50 species of birds inhabit the park, including the impressive bearded vulture, or lammergeier, with its 10-foot (3m) wingspan.

Awash National Park

Awash National Park spans across the southern tip of the Afar Region and the northeastern corner of the Misraq Shewa Zone of Oromia. This park is 225 kilometers east of Addis Ababa (and a few kilometers west of Awash), with its southern boundary along the Awash River, and covers at least 756 square kilometers of acacia woodland and grassland.
The Addis Ababa – Dire Dawa highway passes through this park, separating the Illala Saha Plains to the south from the Kudu Valley to the north. In the south of the park the Awash River gorge has amazing waterfalls. In the upper Kudu Valley at Filwoha are hot springs amid groves of palm trees.

Bale Mountains National Park

Nominated in 2009 to the World Heritage Tentative List, Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP) is a national park in Ethiopia with one of the highest incidences of animal endemicity of any terrestrial habitat in the world. The park encompasses an area of approximately 2,150 km2, and is divided into five distinct and unique habitats: the Northern Grasslands (Gaysay Valley), Northern Woodlands (Park Headquarters), Afro-alpine Meadows (Sanetti Pleateau), Erica Moorlands, and the Harenna Forest.
The park is known for being home to the largest populations of both the endemic and endangered Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) and mountain nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni), as well as the endemic Bale monkey (Chlorocebus djamdjamensis) and giant mole rat (Tachyoryctes macrocephalus).

Nechisar National Park

Nechisar National Park (also spelled as Nech Sar) is one of the national parks of Ethiopia. Nechisar / Nech Sar, which translated to “White Grass” in English is located in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) immediately to the east of Arba Minch.
Its 514 square kilometers of territory include the “Bridge of God” (an isthmus between Lakes Abaya and Chamo), and the Nechisar plains east of the lakes. Park elevations range between 1108 and 1650 meters above sea level.

Abijatta-Shalla Lakes National Park

Abijatta-Shalla National Park is one of the National Parks of Ethiopia which is located 200 kilometers south of Addis Ababa to the east of the Ziway–Shashamane highway. The park contains 887 square kilometers including the Rift Valley lakes of Abijatta and Shalla. The two lakes are separated by three kilometers of hilly land. The altitude of the park ranges from 1540 to 2075 meters, the highest peak being Mount Fike, which is situated between the two lakes.
Besides the two lakes, the primary attraction of this national park are a number of hot springs on the northeast corner of Lake Abijatta, and large numbers of flamingoes on the lake.

National Parks

National Parks

Simien Mountains National Park is one of the national parks of Ethiopia…..

Natural Attractions

Natural Attractions

Simien Mountains

The Semien Mountains located in northern Ethiopia, north east of Gondar, are part of the Ethiopian Highlands. They are a World Heritage Site and include the Semien Mountains National Park. The mountains consist of plateaux separated by valleys and rising to pinnacles. The tallest peak is Ras Dashen (4,550 m); other notable heights include Mounts Biuat (4,437 m) and Kidis Yared (4,453 m).
Because of their geological origins the mountains are almost unique, with only South Africa’s Drakensberg having been formed in the same manner and thus appearing similar. Notable animals in the mountains include the walia ibex, gelada, and caracal and a Ethiopian wolves.

Erta Ale and Dallol Depression

Erta Ale means “smoking mountain” in the local Afar language and its southern most pit is known locally as “the gateway to Hell”.
Erta Ale is centered over the East African Rift system, which is a triple junction setting whose movements are resulting in the formation of a pull-apart basin or rift. The volcano comprises mainly Mafic material which has been brought up to the surface caused by unroofing of the mantle due to this rift formation.
The Danakil Depression is the northern part of the Afar Triangle or Afar Depression, a geological depression that has resulted from the presence of three tectonic plates in the Horn of Africa. The Danakil Depression is located in the Afar Region near the border with Eritrea and Ethiopia. This area is referred to as the cradle of hominids after the famous Lucy Australopithecus fossil was found there, which has been dated 3.2 million years old.
The Danakil Depression is the hottest place on Earth in terms of year-round average temperatures. It is also one of the lowest places on the planet (100 m below sea level), and without rain for most of the year. Here, the Awash River dries up in a chain of salt lakes never reaching the Indian Ocean.

Sof Omar Caves

Sof Omar Cave is the longest cave in Ethiopia at 15.1 kilometres (9.4 mi) long; sources claim it is the longest system of caves in Africa. It is situated to the east of Robe, in the Bale Zone of the Oromia Region in southeastern Ethiopia, through which the Weyib River (Gestro River) flows. It sinks at the Ayiew Maco entrance and reappears at the Holuca resurgence 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) away.
According to tradition Sof Omar was the name of a Muslim holy man who lived in the area and Ayiew the name of his daughter. Maco and Holuca are local names for ‘name’ and ‘cave’, respectively. Long a religious centre, it is sacred both to Islam and the local traditional religion. The caves are known for their many pillars, particularly in the ‘Chamber of Columns’.

Bale Mountains

The Bale Mountains are located in the southeast Ethiopia, south of the Awash River, and are part of the Ethiopian Highlands. They include Tullu Demtu, the second-highest mountain in Ethiopia (4377 meters), and Mount Batu (4307 meters). The Bale Mountains National Park covers 2,200 square kilometers of these mountains. The main attractions of the park are the wild alpine scenery, and the relative ease with which visitors can see unique birds and mammals.
The Bale Mountains are home to many of Ethiopia’s endemic animals, notably the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis), found on the Sanetti Plateau. The park also contains the Harenna Forest, situated to the south of the mountains, which is a largely unexplored area thought to contain many undiscovered species of reptile as well as lions, leopards and various types of antelope. Besides wildlife, the National Park offers trekking opportunities from the park headquarters at Dinsho.
The largest group of Ethiopian wolves is found here. Other characteristic large mammals are mountain nyalas, Menelik’s bushbucks, warthogs, and bohor reedbucks.

The Blue Nile Falls, Lake Tana and ’tis-esat’

The Blue Nile Falls is a waterfall on the Blue Nile river in Ethiopia. It is known as Tis Abay in Amharic, meaning “smoking water”. It is situated on the upper course of the river, about 30 km downstream from the town of Bahir Dar and Lake Tana. The falls are considered one of Ethiopia’s best known tourist attractions.
The falls are estimated to be between 37 and 45 metres high, consisting of four streams that originally varied from a trickle in the dry season to over 400 metres wide in the rainy season. Regulation of Lake Tana now reduces the variation somewhat, and since 2003 a hydro-electric station has taken much of the flow out of the falls except during the rainy season. The Blue Nile Falls isolate the ecology of Lake Tana from the ecology of the rest of the Nile, and this isolation has played a role in the evolution of the endemic fauna of the lake.

National Parks

National Parks

Simien Mountains National Park is one of the national parks of Ethiopia…..

Historical Attractions

Historical Attractions

Lalibela

Lalibela is a town in northern Ethiopia famous for monolithic rock-cut churches. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and a center of pilgrimage. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. Ethiopia is one of the earliest nations to adopt Christianity in the first half of the fourth century, and its historical roots date to the time of the Apostles.
The layout and names of the major buildings in Lalibela are widely accepted, especially by local clergy, to be a symbolic representation of Jerusalem.
Lalibela is known around the world for its churches carved from within the earth from “living rock,” which play an important part in the history of rock-cut architecture. Though the dating of the churches is not well established, most are thought to have been built during the reign of Lalibela, namely during the 12th and 13th centuries.

Bahir Dar and Lake Tana Monasteries

Bahir Dar is a city in north-western Ethiopia which is the capital of the Amhara Regional state. Bahir Dar is one of the leading tourist destinations in Ethiopia, with a variety of attractions in the nearby Lake Tana and Blue Nile river. The city is known for its wide avenues lined with palm trees and a variety of colorful flowers. In 2002 it was awarded the UNESCO Cities for Peace Prize for addressing the challenges of rapid urbanization.
The Blue Nile Falls (Tis Issat) are located about 30 km to the south. The Blue Nile Falls are one of the main tourist attractions of Bahir Dar, especially during the rainy season when the water level rises and the falls become greater.

Gonder

Gonder is a city located in the Semien Gondar Zone of the Amhara Region, Gondar is north of Tana Lake on the Lesser Angereb River and southwest of the Simien Mountains. Gondar previously served as the capital of both the Ethiopian Empire and the subsequent Begemder Province. The city holds the remains of several royal castles, including those in Fasil Ghebbi (the Royal Enclosure), for which Gondar has been called the “Camelot of Africa”.
Gonder Fasil Castle Ethiopia Decouvrir Ethiopie TourGondar traditionally was divided into several neighborhoods or quarters: Addis Alem, where the Muslim inhabitants dwelled; Kayla Meda, where the adherents of Beta Israel lived; Abun Bet, centered on the residence of the Abuna, or nominal head of the Ethiopian Church; and Qagn Bet, home to the nobility. Gondar is also a noted center of ecclesiastical learning of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and known for having 44 churches – for many years more than any other settlement in Ethiopia. Gondar and its surrounding countryside constitute the homeland of most Ethiopian Jews.
The modern city of Gondar is popular as a tourist destination for its many picturesque ruins in Fasil Ghebbi (the Royal Enclosure), from which the emperors once reigned. The most famous buildings in the city lie in the Royal Enclosure, which include Fasilides’ castle, Iyasu’s palace, Dawit’s Hall, a banqueting hall, stables, Empress Mentewab’s castle, a chancellery, library and three churches. Near the city lie Fasilides’ Bath, home to an annual ceremony where it is blessed and then opened for bathing; the Qusquam complex, built by Empress Mentewab; the eighteenth century Ras Mikael Sehul’s Palace and the Debre Berhan Selassie Church.

Harar

Harar is a walled city in eastern Ethiopia. It was formerly the capital of Hararghe and now the capital of the modern Harari Region of Ethiopia. The city is located on a hilltop in the eastern extension of the Ethiopian Highlands, about five hundred kilometers from Addis Ababa at an elevation of 1,885 meters.
For centuries, Harar has been a major commercial centre, linked by the trade routes with the rest of Ethiopia, the entire Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and, through its ports, the outside world. Harar Jugol, the old walled city, was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2006 by UNESCO in recognition of its cultural heritage. According to UNESCO, it is “considered ‘the fourth holy city’ of Islam” with 110 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century and 102 shrines.
Besides the stone wall surrounding the city, the old town is home to 110 mosques and many more shrines, centered on Feres Magala square. Notable buildings include Medhane Alem Cathedral, the house of Ras Mekonnen, the house of Arthur Rimbaud, the sixteenth century Jami Mosque and the historical great five gates of harrer.

Feeding hyenas

A long-standing tradition of feeding meat to spotted hyenas also evolved during the 1960s into an impressive night show for tourists.

Temple of Yeha

The oldest standing structure in Ethiopia is located in Yeha: the temple of Yeha. This is a tower built in the Sabaean style, and dated through comparison with ancient structures in South Arabia to around 700 BC.
Yeha is the location of an Ethiopian Orthodox monastery. The edifice was founded according to tradition by Abba Aftse, one of the Nine Saints.
In his account of Ethiopia, Francisco Álvares mentions visiting this town in 1520 (which he called “Abbafaçem”), and provides a description of the ancient tower, the monastery, and the local church. This church was either the rededicated Great Temple, or a now destroyed building which the Deutsche Aksum-Expedition described in the early 20th century. (The current structure, which exhibits Aksumite architectural features, was built between 1948 and 1949.

Debre Damo

Debre Damo is the name of a flat-topped mountain, or amba, and a 6th-century monastery in northern Ethiopia. The mountain is a steeply rising plateau of trapezoidal shape, about 1000 by 400 meters in dimension. With a latitude and longitude of 14°22′26″N 39°17′25″ECoordinates: 14°22′26″N 39°17′25″E, it sits at an elevation of 2216 meters above sea level. It is located west of Adigrat, in the Mehakelegnaw Zone of the Tigray Region.
The monastery, accessible only by rope up a sheer cliff, 50 feet high, is known for its collection of manuscripts and for having the earliest existing church building in Ethiopia still in its original style, and can only be visited by men. Tradition claims the monastery was founded in the sixth century by Abuna Aregawi.

National Parks

National Parks

Simien Mountains National Park is one of the national parks of Ethiopia…..

Cultural Attractions

Cultural Attractions

The Dorze People and Village

The Dorze are a small ethnic group inhabiting the Gamo Gofa Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region in Ethiopia. They speak the Dorze language, an Omotic tongue.
According to Ethnologue, the Dorze numbered 29,000 individuals (1994 census), of whom 9,910 were monolingual. They primarily live in the southern parts of the country, though some have migrated to Addis Ababa and other regions. Many reside in villages near the cities of Chencha and Arba Minch.
Weaving is a primary profession for a number of Dorze. Their polyphonic multi-part vocal music features a sophisticated use of hocket.

The Konso Village

Konso, named after the Konso people, is known for its religious traditions, waga sculptures, and nearby fossil beds, which is an archaeological site of early hominids. The site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on September 30, 1997 due to its purported universal cultural significance and official made a World Heritage Site in 2011.
Konso society is largely agricultural and involves the irrigation and terracing of mountain slopes. Staple crops include sorghum and corn, with cash crops including cotton and coffee. Cattle, sheep, and goats are raised for food and milk.
Group members also erect carvings (wagas), which are created in memory of a dead man who has killed an enemy or animal. The statues are often arranged in groups, with statues representing the man, his wives, and his adversaries present.

The Mursi / Surma People

The Mursi are a Nilotic pastoralist ethnic group in Ethiopia. They principally reside in the South Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region, close to the border with South Sudan. Surrounded by mountains between the Omo River and its tributary the Mago, the home of the Mursi is one of the most isolated regions of the country. Their neighbors include the Aari, the Banna, the Bodi, the Karo, the Kwegu, the Nyangatom and the Suri. They are grouped together with the Me’en and Suri by the Ethiopian government under the name Surma.

The Dassanech Peoples

The Dassanech (also known as the Marille or Geleba) are an ethnic group inhabiting parts of South Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region, adjacent to Lake Turkana in Ethiopia. The Dassanech are also called Marille especially by their neighbours, the Turkana of Kenya.
The Dassanech are traditionally pastoralists, but in recent years have become primarily agropastoral. Like many pastoral peoples throughout this region of Africa, the Dassanech are a highly egalitarian society, with a social system involving age sets and clan lineages – both of which involve strong reciprocity relations.
The Dassanech speak the Dassanech language, which belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family. The language is notable for its large number of noun classes, irregular verb system, and implosive consonants.

The Karo People

The Karo people are an ethnic group who live near the banks of the omo valley. They excel in face and body painting which is practiced in preparation of their dances and ceremonies. They use locally found chalk, mineral rock, iron ore and charcoal to decorate their bodies with different types of design.The Karo trib speak the Karo language which is an Omotic language. The Karo language is described as being closely related to its neighbors, Hamer and Banna and is considered a dialect of Hamer.

National Parks

National Parks

Simien Mountains National Park is one of the national parks of Ethiopia…..